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Sunlit Summit

Spearhead Pinnacle

Elevation: 13,225 ft.

Prominence: 332 ft.

Isolation: 0.4 miles

Technical Difficulty: Class 5.4

Spearhead Pinnacle Guidebook


Spearhead Pinnacle is the most difficult 13,000-foot peak in the Wind River Range assuming that all peaks are climbed by the easiest route under good conditions. Its point-like summit rises from the Continental Divide at the head of the Helen Glacier, but the peak goes unnoticed from most angles. Climbers usually congregate on technical summits, but like Koven, Spearhead has historically remained obscure.

Modern interest in list-based peakbagging has led to a new appreciation of this Pinnacle, as it is one of the most difficult summits on the list of Wyoming 13ers. However, this fine summit need not be reduced to a checkbox; its soaring granite ridges and superb position at the top of the Helen Glacier overlooking upper Titcomb Basin all make this peak worthy of an ascent.

General Considerations

Only one route has ever been reported on this extremely steep-sided peak. The Bonneys rate the north ridge as 5.3, but in the same guidebook they describe the Grand Teton’s Owen Spalding route as class 4. The technical climbing here is not quite as sustained as the Owen Chimney, but in the author’s opinion (having soloed both routes), the crux moves here are at least as hard as those on the Grand. Be prepared for a multi-pitch technical alpine climb before attempting Spearhead.

Route 1: North Ridge – Class 5.4 Moderate Snow

To approach the north ridge, first find your way to the head of the Helen Glacier. If coming from Titcomb Basin, a convenient snow and scree gully leads east to a small col (Pass 12561) on the Divide crest starting from a point in upper Titcomb Basin just north of Mount Helen.

Traverse the top of the Helen Glacier northward, looking out for crevasses. Ascend a short, broad snow couloir (rubble in the late season) to reach the ridgeline at 12,900 ft. near the col between Spearhead and Doublet. The ridge at this point consists of fractured blocks and scree. Bypass a large gendarme near the base of the proper north ridge by traversing ledges and scree on the west side below the crest.

The climbing now begins in earnest. An initial section of slabs and ledges leads upwards at class 4+; stay near the ridge crest or on the east side. Before long, the ridge steepens considerably. Several options are available here; two of the easiest versions are described. Variation 1: beginning a bit left of the ridge crest, it is possible to climb an exposed slab on inset edges, returning to the ridge atop the first large flake system. Variation 2: traverse farther from the ridge crest on east-facing slabby ledges until a series of large rock flakes block your progress, then chimney up behind one of these flakes to regain the ridge at a tiny false summit.

From here, the upper part of the pinnacle looms in full view, and you may see a distinct resemblance between the summit tower and a spearpoint. Next, cross a horizontal knife edge ridge and proceed up low class 5 slab section. The final hundred feet consists of easier scrambling, topped off by large summit boulder which requires a few class 4+ moves. A tiny summit register should be located on top, though like many Wind River registers, it typically lacks a writing utensil (bring your own!).

To descend, after reversing your route across the knife edge, some parties have chosen to downclimb the entire route, while others have rappelled about 120 feet down the east face (starting from just above the crux flake) to reach a steep, north-angling snow slope which offers a return route to the Helen Glacier.

Spearhead Pinnacle Map

Spearhead Pinnacle Panorama

Spearhead Pinnacle Photos

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